The story is told of an Akan household, where the owner kept livestock, had poultry and a few domesticated bush animals. The tortoise was one of the normally bush residents that was comfortable in the home environment.
One day, the head of the household had an impromptu visit from a distant relative and asked the wife to prepare a sumptuous meal. When the wife complained that there was no fish or meat available, the family head asked the frustrated wife to organise the boys to pluck the feathers from the tortoise. Knowing that it had no feathers, the tortoise turned to the cock and whispered in twi: ‘Akoko wate?’
The cock ignored the tortoise’s promptings and at its own peril. While it was doing what it knows best – moving all over the house and crowing, the poor chicken, cornered by children of the house, who caught and had its feathers plucked and the meat prepared for the evening meal.
Hearing Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketiah at a media encounter on Wednesday, obstinately arguing against the call by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the compilation of a new voters register, a call directed at the Electoral Commission, I got the impression that the political edifice Jerry Rawlings built was taking the blame for the Electoral Commission’s inadequacies.
Since when, one would like to know, did the National Democratic Congress (NDC) become the official spokesperson for the Electoral Commission? Why do the NDC and its top officials become jittery anytime there is a call on the Electoral Commission to change the bloated and electorally unreliable voters register? Do officials of the NDC know something that has been kept on the blind side of the good people of Ghana, all this while?
All that the NPP spokesperson at the press conference – that is the party’s presidential running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumiah – said in Accra on Tuesday, was that the party had discovered as many as 76,286 people whose names appear on the list of registered voters for both Ghana and Togo, and that added up to the suspicion that the 2012 voters register could contain names of people who might not qualify to vote in this country.
“Ladies and gentlemen, over the years, there have been persistent rumours about people coming from across the border in Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire to register and vote in Ghanaian elections. The curious case of increased National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) special registration in the Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions (both border regions), coupled with the massive increase in voter registration in some border constituencies between 2008 and 2012, resulted in investigative work to ascertain whether the facts – citizens of Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire – do register to vote in Ghanaian elections,” Dr. Bawumiah said.
According to the running mate of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the evidence is damning and shows that “the Ghanaian voters register has been compromised.” He gave a classic example of pictures of some voters in border towns in the Volta Region that might have been scanned and fed into the system, instead of the normal experience of voters pictures being taken live at the registration centres.
“What is more troubling with the findings so far, is that many of the pictures of the Togolese citizens on Ghana’s register were not taken in a live environment, but rather scanned from existing pictures and documents. We actually have an incredible situation of one polling station in Ketu South Constituency (Temporary Booth Shikakope-Apekotuime), where most of the pictures on the voters register were scanned. These are evidenced by staple pin marks on the photos in the register, which, under the law, should be digitally taken, and, therefore, cannot have been stapled.”
These are very serious allegations, which the Electoral Commission has to answer. How did those pictures go to illustrate registration forms on the voters’ register? As Dr. Bawumiah pointed out, “this could only have been done by people with the necessary security permissions to do so.”
In the view of the spokesperson for the NPP: “The evidence is incontrovertible that Ghana’s voters register has been compromised. It is not a document we can rely on for free, fair and transparent elections in Ghana.” The NPP, therefore, asked for the 2012 voters register to be discarded, and a fresh register compiled for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Instead of contributing positively to ensure that this nation has a credible voters register, the NDC apparently felt under pressure to declare the party innocent of the charges the NPP espoused.
At a press conference in Accra, General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketiah accused the NPP of presenting a flawed argument. “This argument is flawed, because what they are calling for is retroactive legislation, which is not permitted by the 1992 Constitution.”
Mr. Nketiah had the decision of the Supreme Court, which ruled that the National Health Insurance Authority card should no more be used to register voters, in mind. He said the New Patriotic Party would find it difficult to furnish the Electoral Commission with the list of persons who used the NHIS cards to register to vote.
He charged the NPP of playing the tribal card with the party’s claim that the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions recorded the highest number of foreign names in the national voters register. The NDC said the claim by the NPP that Togolese and Ivorians had registered, mainly in the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions to vote in Ghana, was a “fraudulent gratuitous attack” on the people of these regions.
“A close examination of the pictures presented as evidence of registration by Togolese and Ivorians shows a clear case of deceptive manipulation of photographs taken at different times.”
One newspaper aligned to the NDC screamed on its front page that the NPP allegation that most of the foreign voters on our register were discovered in the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions, clearly demonstrated that the leading opposition party in Ghana hated Ewes.
It is one theme the NDC has succeeded in planting into Voltarians that the NPP is anti-Ewe, which is a very dangerous development in this nation’s attempts to detribalise our political discourse.
The issue at stake, I dare state, is whether or not the electoral register of the Republic of Ghana, is credible? The answer has always been that it is not. In a country, widely acknowledged as harbouring more children than adults, it is not practical for more than 14 million to register to vote in a population of some 25 million.
The election petition brought by the NPP in the Supreme Court after the 2012 presidential election exposed several weaknesses in the compilation of the register. While the register is supposed to have captured several thousand potential voters from Ghanaians in the diaspora, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the immediate past Chairman of the Electoral Commission, could only account for 705 when the chips were down.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court recommended the compilation of a new voters register to replace the discredited 2012 compilation. I am surprised that two years down the line, the Electoral Commission has failed to abide by the Supreme Court’s directive.
Like ostriches, we are all burying our heads in the sand, when the signs are clear that there is so much anger in the system, as a result of the government’s inability to perform. Many Ghanaians are waiting patiently to express their views when this nation goes to the polls on December 7, 2016.
Making it impossible for the outcome of the vote to reflect the wishes of the people would be a recipe for disaster. This country has enjoyed so much relative peace, because of people’s conviction that their votes had been properly accounted for since Constitutional rule returned to the body politic in 1992.
No one could predict the future reaction of the youth especially, when it turns out that the wishes of the large mass of the people had been compromised, as a result of an unreliable voters register.
That is why the NDC should stop crying more than the bereaved, and encourage the Electoral Commission to compile a new register. All evidence points to a flawed document. Let us take measures to compile a new reliable voters register. Peace is nurtured when there is little room for discontent.
I shall return!